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The Danger Of The Unseen

Posted on: November 10, 2015

Thinking about the risks of medical malpractice often brings to mind the same tales of terrible medical mishaps. A doctor accidentally amputates the wrong limb. A sponge is left inside the patient’s body after a surgical procedure. Perhaps a surgery goes wrong and the patient’s pain is only made worse. Whatever the circumstances, medical malpractice always infers that the doctor made one great big mistake and actively put the patient in a worsened condition. While a doctor’s actions can lead to medical malpractice, there is sometimes an even greater danger – the doctor’s inaction. A doctor’s responsibility does not always begin with treatment. Before treatment can begin a diagnosis must be made and for treatment to be helpful, that diagnosis must be proper.

Medical Mistakes: Seeing the Unseen

The role of the radiologists, though evolving through changing technology, has essentially stayed the same throughout history; they have to see the unseen. The radiologist’s job is to “read” images of the inside of a patient’s body. They must be equipped with the knowledge of what a body and its organs should look like and then apply that to spot abnormalities. When a doctor trained and acting as a radiologist misses an abnormality, there is no basis for a diagnosis and the patient may not receive the proper treatment in time. This is what a jury found happened when a young man named John Crossley sought emergency medical treatment at Bethesda Memorial Hospital.

An Oversight

In May of 2010 Crossley visited Bethesda complaining of severe pains in his chest. He was 27 years old. This was a follow up at the urging of an MD Now clinic that suggested to Crossley that he may have blood clots in his lungs. The radiologists at Bethesda diagnosed Crossley with pneumonia. They prescribed him antibiotics. They sent him home. A short three months later Crossley went to JFK with excruciating chest pains. Before he could receive treatment his heart failed As a result Crossley lost his eyesight, suffered brain damage, and suffered depression. He racked up medical bills and endured oxygen deprivation which led to his heart attack.

The Verdict

Last month a Maryland jury determined that both JFK and Bethesda bore responsibility for Crossley’s injuries. Evidence was introduced that radiologists were being permitted to read these critical patient scans at home at nights and on weekends. On top of that, the hospital also used a service based in Florida that allowed radiologists to read scans and diagnose scans anonymously. Bethesda was found to be responsible for more than half of his injuries. The jury, who deliberated a mere three hours, came back with a verdict of liable and $16.9 million in compensation. As best stated by Crossley’s attorney, “The jury said when we put profits before safety we won’t tolerate that in this community.”

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Medical Malpractice

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most common injuries suffered among patients in the United States. A TBI can vary in severity, symptoms, lasting effects, and treatment plans. Varying levels of trauma to the head are caused by an impact or even the head being whipped around abruptly. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in 2010 about 2.5 million TBIs were diagnosed. More severe TBIs can result in unconsciousness, impaired senses, loss of motor functions, and problem with attention or memory. Proper diagnoses of a traumatic brain injury, whether mild or severe, can help a patient regain normal function sooner rather than later. Ensuring appropriate treatment plans can help a patient return to normal life and help his or her loved ones along the way. Without the right medical attention, patients and their families needlessly suffer.

Fort Washington Medical Center

A recent investigation by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) warned the Fort Washington Medical Center (FWMC) in Prince George’s County that their facility was not up to par. CMS further warned that if FWMC did not correct the deficiencies noted during the investigation, it would be terminated from the Medicare program. The federal Medicare program is the nation’s largest insurer and specifically covers the disabled and the elderly. As the nation’s largest insurer Medicare is a major source of income for hospitals and has a certain level of influence over health providers in the United States. In 2011 Medicare funds made up about one third of FWMC’s overall revenue. Medicare paid the hospital about $43.1 million during 2011 alone. Over the past five years Medicare has threatened 233 with potential termination; of these only 13 were actually cut off.

The Investigation

During its investigation CMS discovered that a patient with a head injury was at FWMC for seven hours before being transferred to another hospital. The transfer was necessary because FWMC’s CT scan, used to diagnose head injuries, was not working on the day the patient was admitted. The hospital the patient was transferred to diagnosed him and determined he was in need of “immediate” attention. He was then transferred back to FWMC and later air-lifted to a third hospital. CMS also found that improper signage and other compliance issues that were out of sync with Medicare’s standards. A spokeswoman for FWMC said, “We have addressed all issues raised in this survey and fully anticipate that this matter will be resolved without any interruption to patient care.”

Call Us

When someone suffers an injury the last thing they need to deal with are unnecessary complications from healthcare providers. Medical facilities have the trust of the public primarily because of their level of medical expertise. The public needs these facilities to live up to that trust. After all, it is our health that is on the line. If you have suffered from a misdiagnosis or improper medical care after a traumatic brain injury, contact our team Bob Katz Law today.

Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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